Women of the Word | Daughters of Shallum

In God’s Word we are told about many men and women who served the Lord. Men such as Joshua and women such as Rahab, who both helped bring down the walls of Jericho through their obedience to God. 

But what of those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah? What do their stories tell us, and why did one man’s daughters help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem?

Join us as we discover how God used these mighty women to help bring His will and promises to pass!

Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem

“… ‘The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.’”

—Nehemiah 1:3

This was the news Nehemiah was given about Jerusalem. News that distressed him, but caused him to draw near to God in repentance, mourning, and seeking for mercy and favor. This was a preparatory time. For Nehemiah, but also unbeknownst to him, for the king of Persia to whom he was cupbearer.

“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.”

—Nehemiah 2:1-2

When Nehemiah went about his duties after hearing of the state of Jerusalem, he did not hide his despair…

Many consider this to have been a dangerous thing, because it is believed that those around the king—such as his cupbearer—were not meant to show negative emotion before the king. Let alone despair. Yet, Nehemiah was granted favor by God… for the king did not grow angry, but instead asked why Nehemiah had sorrow of heart.

Nehemiah told the king. Despite being afraid, he did not hold back. What is more, after praying, he even requested to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, to have documents provided to prove the king’s approval, and to have the lumber supplied for the project! 

And in God’s goodness, the king granted Nehemiah’s request for each.

God’s hand was certainly upon the rebuilding of Jerusalem and upon Nehemiah’s leadership for the project. But that did not mean there would be no challenges. There was still a lot of work to be done…

  • Nehemiah had to seek the support of those in Jerusalem. 
  • He had to overcome naysayers, dangers, and distractions. 
  • And, of course, he had to start the rebuilding process of the nearly two and a half miles of wall—along with multiple gates and other structures.

Different men were given the responsibility of rebuilding specific sections of the walls, gates and towers. And through this shared responsibility of the workload, the city began to be restored. But soon, the hard but manageable task was to become far more challenging.

There were plots against the reconstruction of Jerusalem. Plots that caused those who were rebuilding the city to prepare to defend themselves with a sword strapped to their side at all times; some even carrying a weapon in one hand as they worked with the other. But while things such as this would slow the progress of those who were working, it did not stop them.

Even through complaints and oppression. Even through good times and bad. They continued to rebuild the city. 

And after a mere 52 days, the nearly two and a half miles of wall and gates were completely rebuilt. A testimony to God’s provision and a reminder that, even when we face opposition, God will always make a way for His will to be done!

Daughters of Shallum

So, we know Nehemiah’s story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. But who are the daughters of Shallum and where do they feature in this biblical account?

Interestingly there is actually very little information on these women—as is the case with most of those who worked toward rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. We know who their father was, Shallum, and that he was the leader of half the district of Jerusalem. We know who their father’s father was, Hallohesh. And we know approximately what section of the wall they would have been rebuilding—an area near the Tower of Ovens, which many believe to be near what was the Valley Gate. But these are the only details DIRECTLY written out. However, because we have the biblical account of the repairs, and because we know cultural details, we can INFER a considerable amount more.

“Malchijah the son of Harim and Hashub the son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section, as well as the Tower of the Ovens. And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs.

—Nehemiah 3:11-12 (emphasis added)
Watercolor depicting three women in ancient clothing as a concept for the daughters of Shallum.

Nehemiah 3:11-12 is the only direct account of these women, their contribution, and the area they would have worked to rebuild. But what would it have looked like?

Well, there are a few possibilities…

Some believe that perhaps they only helped financially. After all, their father was a leader in their community, they could have been wealthy… But this is not overly likely when we consider a few facts. 

  • Nehemiah had already had all the lumber provided by the king of Persia
  • Stones of various sizes would have been left from the destruction of Jerusalem’s walls
  • Any additional stones likely came from nearby, due to the repairs taking a mere 52 days
  • Money was tight for those in Jerusalem—they had barely managed to evade captivity
  • Getting laborers from outside the city was probably limited because the non-Jewish opinion of the repairs to the city was largely negative

Another less common view is that perhaps the daughters of Shallum simply served the men who were working on the repairs; providing food, water, or handing them the tools they needed. But if so, then why are no other women mentioned? Surely, Shallum’s daughters would not be the only ones helping in that way… and if other women did the same as they, they would also be mentioned. 

This leads us to what is perhaps the most likely reason that these women are mentioned…

That Shallum’s daughters actually put their hands to the project, and were remembered because it was unique. Because—as far as we know—women typically did not do that sort of work. But, like Deborah, who was not the norm for Israel’s judges… perhaps the daughters of Shallum were willing to go outside of man’s expectations to see God’s will accomplished?

If Shallum’s daughters did indeed physically help repair Jerusalem, their experience would likely be very similar to that of every other person working on the project. 

Rebuilding the city was hard, physical work. Made harder still by opposition to the work, plots against the construction, and the resulting need to carry weapons…

Nehemiah 4:18 says that “Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.” Now even though this reference seems to refer to men only, it is highly probable that Shallum’s daughters also girded a weapon to their side. But whether these women carried weapons or not, the immediate danger was the same for them as for any other person working on the repairs. 

Each worker was under constant threat of attack, and without weapons, they were targets and liabilities. So, just like the others, Shallum’s daughters would not have backed down in fear. They would have carried on until the work was done… and the city was as God desired.

According to the book of Nehemiah, these women were the only ones who had any recorded part in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem during that time. And what they were doing was extraordinary!

While other men may have had sons or servants to help rebuild their designated section, Shallum had daughters who were ready to do their part. To restore the place where God has written His Name. Jerusalem. The place of prophecy and miracles, of honor, and more importantly, God’s presence.

It was not an easy task. But they trusted in God—just as did Nehemiah and every man who chose to rebuild the city. They took their father’s share of the work upon their shoulders along with him, and helped take away their reproach. To set their family into God’s Word as one which walked in obedience and was willing to work to see God’s will done.

Our Choice

Like the daughters of Shallum, we too have a choice. We can walk in obedience and work to see the will of the Lord done… or not. We can trust in the Lord… or not.

No matter the section that God has placed in front of us to rebuild—to work on—we can push forward with full trust in God. Trust that, regardless of what the circumstances around us may look like, God is with us. He will see His will done throughout the whole earth, and down to the very section we are meant to work on.

It is not always easy. There will probably be times of disquiet among those who are working. Of arguments and opposition. Of plots and threats. And we need to be ready—armed in the Spirit to stand in obedience. Even if we have to ‘work with only one hand,’ our choice to press on in what God desires us to do is important. Because that obedience is rewarded…

And God’s will and promises are always completed.